This week, the first iteration of Education, Public Policy and Equity Laboratory (EPPE_Lab) was launched at the Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN) in Chile. Developed by the Talent Research and Development Centre, together with the EPPE Network, this initial course trains school leaders and teachers to implement school-based research projects grounded in Participatory Action Research (PAR) principles. All five of the schools involved in this programme - based in Antofagasta and Calama - serve communities characterised by high levels of disadvantage.
The programme kicked off with the first training module - ‘Participatory Action Research applied to complex or vulnerable education contexts’ - led by UCN researchers Cristian Celedón and Alejandro Proestakis. The course introduces participants to the PAR theoretical framework in order to prepare them to implement action research projects in their schools.
For this first iteration of EPPE_Lab, the participating schools are Valetín Letelier and República de Chile primary schools, Mario Bahamondes Silva and General Oscar Bonilla secondary schools, and Antofagasta Regional Hospital school. The PAR course was developed with the collaboration and support of researchers and academics from UCN and education experts in Chilean, Argentinian and Scottish universities.
EPPE_Lab participants were highly motivated to begin the PAR course, highlighting how implementing participatory strategies could help seek solutions to the different internal issues faced in each school. Mr Roberto Molina, a teacher from Oscar Bonilla Secondary School pointed out:
“we want to use the participatory action research as a starting point to analyse the high school dropout rates that we have in the school. But our idea is to work around that issue in a collaborative way, empowering our school community to take the best decisions on how we need to confront this problem all together.”
Echoing this sentiment, Ms Lorena Rojas, Principal of República de Chile Primary School, stated:
“For us it is very important to incorporate the participatory research tools into our work, in order to get information and data which allow us to understand better what is happening inside our school, and how we can support the improvement processes, but with an evidence-based approach.”
The participants also remarked on the importance of critical reflection on their own education practices, as promoted by the Participatory Action Research approach. Ms Drina Pacheco, a teacher from Valentín Letelier Primary School, stated:
“I believe that, as teacher, it is extremely necessary, and maybe essential, to always think about and reflect on our practices, and then take decisions based on and informed by this process. That is the reason why the participatory action research tools are so important to our work as teachers.”
Ms Paula Otaíza, a teacher from the Antofagasta Hospital School also underlined the importance of PAR for her work, stating that:
“I believe that the participatory action research strategies will directly impact on mobilizing us to generate real changes around the issues that affect us, and the most powerful thing is that it will help us to make these changes as a team. In the end, I believe that the importance of learning PAR is there, that we will be able to contribute all together to strengthen the learning of our students."
The four PAR training modules will be delivered between May and June, with the implementation of the school-based PAR projects beginning in the second half of 2019. During the implementation phase, teachers and leaders from each school will receive support and advice from UCN researchers as well as education experts from the EPPE Network acting as International Advisers.
Click here to learn more about EPPE_Lab Chile 2019